Decoding Art Market Jargon



Sometimes it seems like the art market has a language of its own. It may be that the specific terminology makes it easier for well-seasoned collectors, established gallery owners, and long standing artists to communicate with one another. But it also alienates emerging collectors and young artists, making them feel like foreigners that just stepped into a world to which they do not belong. At WhyNotArt, we say “No, Thank You!” to all alienating vibes. We’re creating an inclusive atmosphere so that more original art can be made and can end up in more people’s homes. So have a look through our glossary of art market terms as we decode that secret language!

Artist’s Proof

Proofs from print production that are sent to the artist for approval before going forward with the print series will be marked ‘A/P’. This indicates that the artist approved this specific print. Such markers will increase the value of the print, setting them apart from the rest of the series.


The formal evaluation of the value of the work usually done by an auction house, a gallery, or an expert. This value often establishes the insurance value of the piece.

Blue Chip

These are the most coveted works in the art market because they are expected to hold their value or increase regardless of any ebbs and flows in the market. Think Picasso, Rembrandt, or Jackson Pollock.

Brick and Click

A relatively new term in the art world, this refers to art galleries that have stores online and in real life.


Some collectors will buy art in order to resell it at a higher price once the value of the work has increased.


Another relatively new term for the art world, this refers to the feeling of exhaustion that gallery owners and artists can feel after months and months of exhibiting at fairs.


This is a super secure storage facility for high-end art that is located in a tax-exempt area. Blue chip pieces can be bought and sold multiple times without ever leaving the facilities, with the result that all transactions happen tax free.

Delaware Freeport Fine Art Storage


The paper trail (or formal documentation) that shows who has owned the piece since it left the artist’s hands and where it has been stored. It is useful for establishing the authenticity of the piece and can be integral to assessing its value. It is even more important when it comes to buying antiquities where international laws against looting are incredibly strict about clearly authenticated paper trails.

Primary vs. Secondary Art Market

The primary art market describes everything sold from the artist to the first owner. The secondary art market characterizes any transaction that happens after that initial one.


There are many ways to make a print – for example, through digital printing or carvings on wood, metal or stone. The basic point is that the exact same image can be repeated multiple times (or endlessly in the case of digital prints).
  • Edition – This refers to how many prints were made. Artists will create a certain number of prints to control their price. The print will then be marked with a number to show which print in the run it is. So a print that has 2/15 written on it shows that it is the second print in a run of 15.
  • Limited Edition Print – In theory this means that only a certain number of prints exist and that the artist won’t make anymore in the future. Again, this is done to control the price of the works.
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